Officials in Hawaii have confirmed that at least 36 people have died because of wildfires and that more than 270 structures have been damaged or destroyed as a result of a fast-moving wildfire that nearly destroyed the historic town of Lahaina on Hawaii’s island of Maui.
As the fires on the island continue to burn and teams spread out to search the burned areas, officials have warned that the death toll could rise further.
Initially spread by winds from Hurricane Dora as it passed far to the south, the Lahaina fire was one of several that destroyed entire communities in Hawaii.
Residents of a Maui neighbourhood scrambled to escape fast-moving flames Tuesday night as their homes were swallowed by flames.
According to officials, evacuations were continuing Thursday as people were being taken by buses from the disaster area on the western part of the island to either a shelter or Maui’s Kahului Airport for those who needed to be transported.
During a news conference held by Hawaii Department of Transportation Director Edwin Sniffen on Wednesday night, he said 11,400 travellers had departed Maui earlier in the day, and 600 more had stayed overnight at the airport. It was expected that about 1,500 passengers would leave the island on Thursday.
The President of the United States, Joe Biden, approved a federal disaster declaration on Thursday for Maui. As a result of this move, federal funding is now available to residents of the island who are affected by the fires.